Next to Turtles in Time and Street Fighter 2 I can safely say that there isn’t another arcade game I’ve pumped more quarters in than Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was lucky enough to have a cabinet in a store on the way to school and so every day for almost a year 3 or 4 of us would try to get as far as possible before middle school. As anyone who has played that game knows it was incredibly difficult. But we were too stupid to realize that you weren’t getting far with just two quarters. When the NES port hit I was elated; even back then I wasn’t too fond of that first NES game. All things considered Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: the Arcade game turned out as well as can be expected and has some exclusive content to boot.
TMNT is fondly remembered as a classic and rightly so. After the disappointment of their first licensed effort on the NES Konami fired back with this beloved gem. In 1989 the beat em up genre was beginning to explode in popularity with the likes of Golden Axe and Final Fight wowing players across the globe. Yet even in the face of those two juggernauts it is Konami’s game that is most keep coming back to. It’s easy to see why. With great graphics, numerous cameos from the cartoon, and four player coop the game is great.
Stuffing TMNT II into the NES’s confines was no small task and for the most part Konami captured the majority of what made the game great. Most levels share the same look but have had certain elements removed. There are less enemies on screen at once and the game is prone to heavy sprite flickering. While the graphics took a hit the music is excellent all around. It isn’t perfect and at this point you can buy the arcade game on various digital services but the Nintendo game still has its good points and is worth a quick run through.
The four Turtles are present and accounted for and unfortunately the variation in abilities is not present due to the reduced sprite size. Donatello notably had longer reach and was stronger than everyone while Raphael was the fastest. Here they are all virtually the same outside of their weapons which is disappointing. The four player coop was one of the primary reasons the game was so popular and sadly this is limited to two players. But after seeing the heavy flickering its best that Konami didn’t even attempt to implement it.
At its core this is a very simple game like most beat em ups. Most brawlers sadly lack variety in the number of attacks at your disposal and this home port is even worse in that regard as it removes a few basic moves. The variety in the different foot soldiers kind of makes up for this but it really hurts the game’s playability. As much as I like the game it does tend to get very repetitive, especially toward the end where wave after wave of enemies are released.
While some of the cuts are disappointing Konami made up for it in spades. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II has two exclusive new levels that are excellent. The first of these takes place in a snow covered New York caused by a weather manipulating device. The second is a dojo where the magic based foot members reside. Both of these stages have all new enemies and bosses to face, designed by Kevin Eastman himself. The quality of these levels actually surpass the rest of the game as they are clearly designed around the NES limits. Really awesome and fit in with the flow of the game perfectly.
This was a brutal game in the arcade and the home port only eases the difficulty a little bit. You have three lives per credit instead of just two with extra lives coming every two hundred points. You’ll be lucky to reach that regularly however as the game doesn’t use the point system of its sequel. One unfortunate change that makes things harder is the second of invincibility enemies have when hit. You can no longer use continuous attacks to easily thin crowds and it usually results in you exchanging hits. The bosses are just as tough as ever and the limited continues mean you’ll have to work for it. But it is worth it in my opinion.
Of the various home ports of the time Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II turned out the best. I can still enjoy the game even today despite the surgery needed to make the game fit. I would even go so far as to say it is one of the best arcade conversions for the system. A pretty good game that preceded the excellent sequel that would come 2 years later.